The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cloud over arms supplies to Nepal

New Delhi, Feb. 7: The chief of Nepal's army today met the Indian ambassador in Kathmandu, Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, amid indications that a military offensive against the rebels in the countryside of Kathmandu, Pokhara and major towns had begun.

General Pyar Jung Thapa is understood to have requested for the meeting. There was no official word on what transpired but the circumstances in Nepal make it imperative for the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) to seek assurances on supplies of military aid. But New Delhi has asked the Indian army chief, General J.J. Singh, to put off a visit to Kathmandu to take over as honorary chief of the RNA, signalling that there is a question mark over supplies of crucial weapons and protection systems.

An India-Nepal security group meeting slated for end-February is also likely to be deferred.

It is also understood that the US ambassador to Nepal, Moriarty, met King Gyanendra today.

Indian military aid to the RNA comprises training programmes for its officers and troops and a steady supply of military hardware. Here is how India has been aiding the RNA:

In September-October last year, the Indian army dug into its own reserves and sent 24 mine protection vehicles; the RNA had asked for 40 in the short term and more in the longer term

The RNA's chief weapon is the 7.62 calibre upgraded INSAS rifle manufactured at the Ordnance Factory Board's Icchapur Rifle Factory near Calcutta; among the supplies contracted late last year was a consignment of 20,000 INSAS rifles

Nepal had also asked for 5,000 machine guns, 1,000 mortars, 800B (troop carrying) vehicles, bulletproof jackets, bulletproof headgear and night vision devices

The Indian Army's directorate general of military training has been involved in training RNA troops

At least seven companies of the RNA have been trained at the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Vairangte, south Mizoram

Defence public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics has exported two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters to Nepal

Even as Nepal's army mounts offensives, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is trying to make common cause with political outfits they had hitherto opposed. In a statement dated February 4, the CPN(Maoist) chief, Prachanda, called for a united front against the palace.

The united front, Prachanda wrote, would be formed 'by casting away mutual misunderstandings (sic)...We would also like to clarify to all those concerned that we are utterly ready for necessary sacrifice and flexibility from our side for this purpose'.

The Maoists have called for a 'blockade' from February 13 and urged people to stock up on essentials.

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